Travel VTL

Germany – Singapore VTL Report: Part 4 – Day 3 and Day 7 swab tests

Raffles Medical Group did a good job of the Changi Airport VTL arrival testing, but they sure leave a lot to be desired when it comes to the Day 3 and Day 7 swab tests.

With results of the on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test at Changi Airport coming through within almost exactly six hours, VTL passengers can then leave self-isolation at home or their hotel and are free to roam again, within Singapore’s local restrictions for the general population.

That’s not quite the end of the story though, because there are two more tests to go on Day 3 (two days after your arrival day) and Day 7 (six days after your arrival day), which you must book and attend by 3pm at the latest on each of those days.

When you’ll need to book the post-arrival tests

Here’s a summary of the days on which you’ll need to book and attend your post arrival tests, based on your VTL arrival flight.

VTL post-arrival test schedule

Arrival Day
(Day 1)
Day 3
Test
Day 7
Test
Monday
SQ325
Wednesday Sunday
Tuesday
SQ331
Thursday Following
Monday
Wednesday
SQ325
Friday Following
Tuesday
Thursday
SQ331
Saturday Following
Wednesday
Friday
LH778
Sunday Following
Thursday
Saturday
SQ325
Following
Monday
Following
Friday
Sunday
LH778
Following
Tuesday
Following
Saturday

Note: The first Lufthansa Frankfurt – Singapore VTL flight (LH778) arrives on 17th September 2021.

The test schedule is based on the actual flight arrival day, so if your flight is delayed and arrives in Singapore after midnight (i.e. on the next day, compared to original plan), or has to be rescheduled to operate the following day instead, the Day 3 and Day 7 test schedule also slips by one day.

With the latest VTL arrival flight scheduled to arrive in Singapore at 16:25/16:45 (SQ325/LH778), that would take quite a significant delay to have an impact, but do bear it in mind.

You do not need to self-isolate after the Day 3 or Day 7 tests.

How to book

Post-arrival Day 3 and Day 7 tests can be conducted at 36 Raffles Medical clinics across Singapore, but you won’t be able to book directly. Instead the Safe Travel office (STO) will email you a specific booking link for each test and for each person in your group.

“These links are unique to you and you will not be able to use them to make bookings for other travellers.”

Safe Travel Office

As per the email received after immigration clearance, instructions will be forwarded from the Safe Travel Office (STO) at the following approximate timings:

Day 3 and Day 7 Test Booking Instructions

  Arrival Immigration Clearance Time (Day 1)
  Email Notification providing details of:
  • Dates of Day 3 and Day 7 Tests
  • Booking Link for Day 3 Test
  • Booking Link for Day 7 Test
00:00 – 05:59
12:30 on Day 1 07:00 on Day 6
06:00 – 11:59 18:30 on Day 1
12:00 – 17:59 00:30 on Day 2
18:00 – 23:59 06:30 on Day 2

I cleared immigration just before 6pm on 8th September and received two emails at 00:30 on 9th September, with separate booking links – one for 10th September (Day 3 test) and the other for 14th September (Day 7 test), even though STO says you won’t get a Day 7 test booking link until Day 6.

Booking links for Day 3 and Day 7 tests

The booking portal

When you click the email link you’ll be taken to the Raffles booking portal for VTL travellers.

You’ll only be able to select the correct date (i.e. your Day 3 or Day 7) and will not be shown any appointments after 3pm on that day.

Select the clinic and timing you want and then there’s a simple personal details page to complete.

One you submit the form you’ll see a confirmation screen, then you’ll receive your booking details by email.

Which clinics?

Here’s the list of clinics offering Day 3 and Day 7 post-arrival test for VTL travellers:

  Singapore VTL post-arrival test clinics

That page deliberately excludes the contact details of each clinic, reminding you “for your appointment bookings strictly use the dedicated link provided by STO”. In other words don’t call directly – follow the process so it all ‘ties up’ in the system.

Raffles Medical at Harbourfront Centre is one of the 36 approved clinics for Day 3 and Day 7 testing. (Photo: Raffles Medical)

Note that you don’t need to take the Day 3 and Day 7 tests at the same clinic, if you don’t want to.

You can disregard swab testing hours listed after 3pm, since these are not applicable for Day 3 and Day 7 post-arrival tests, which must be conducted by 3pm at the latest.

With the earliest clinic opening at 8am, you’re therefore restricted to an 8am-3pm testing window on each day. Given my experience for the Day 3 test, which involved a waiting time of one hour despite pre-booking, it’s probably too risky to take an afternoon slot at the 34 clinics (94% of the list – practically all of them) that close for lunch.

That effectively gives you an 8.30am to 11am window at almost all clinics, which is far too restrictive in our opinion.

You’ll also notice from the list that if you need a test on Saturday your selection drops to 31 clinics, while on a Sunday it’s down to 22 clinics (and even fewer still on a Public Holiday, which many overseas visitors using the VTL may be unaware of).


 

 

12-year olds

There’s another issue if you have a 12-year-old in your travelling party. They can be fully vaccinated in Singapore or Germany, and are therefore eligible to travel on the VTL, but most of the Raffles Medical clinics on the list (22 out of 36) are not authorised to swab those under the age of 13.

In the worst case, a family of VTL arrivals including a 12-year-old in their party needing a Day 3 or Day 7 swab on a Public Holiday is restricted to using one of just 9 clinics!

You start to wonder if this was very well thought through…

What you’ll need

Don’t head down to the testing clinic empty-handed, there are some documents you must bring with you for registration and identity checks:

  • NRIC or Birth Certificate if you are under 15 (SC/PR only)
  • Passport (LTPH and visitors only)
  • Employment Pass / Work Permit (LTPH only)
  • Receipt for test(s) purchased
  • Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) Approval Letter (LTPH / Visitors only)

My experience

For those of us arriving on the inaugural Germany – Singapore VTL flight on 8th September 2021, it wasn’t good news.

Email links from the Safe Travel Office (STO) to our post-arrival test booking via the Raffles Medical website… didn’t work.

What those of us on the inaugural Germany – Singapore VTL flight saw when we clicked our test booking links

By Thursday morning that meant there were about 100 of us clogging the phone lines to STO, so it took a while to get through, but they confirmed everyone was having the same issue and they were working on a resolution.

By lunchtime on Thursday the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore emailed to confirmed that there was an issue with the booking links and provided VTL travellers who arrived on 8th September 2021 a phone number to call instead, for securing their Day 3 and Day 7 test bookings.

It took about 20 minutes for me to get through and make my bookings, due to the call volumes (the poor guy said he had nearly a hundred calls already!).

Slots were not an issue and I managed to secure my two bookings a clinic within walking distance from my place (remember you don’t need to take the Day 3 and Day 7 tests at the same clinic, if you don’t want to).

Thankfully the online booking system is now working, so SQ331 passengers who arrived on Thursday and all future VTL arrivals should have no such issues. It was a little disappointing, however, that the system seemingly hadn’t been properly tested as part of some kind of ‘dry run’.

The major drawback of my PCR test? It took ages!

I arrived at Raffles Medical five minutes early for my test and about 55 minutes later was still waiting for the swab.

The swab itself, which only takes about 90 seconds, is the deep-nose “brain poke” variety, which is a bit more unpleasant than the one at the airport on-arrival test (throat swab and only about 2cm into the nose).

Nonetheless the nurse was great, interested about how things are in Germany, and all I ended up with was slightly teary eyes!

Overall though, by the time I had paid and left the clinic, it had taken exactly an hour!

If you had to do your swab tests on a working day like I did, this could easily take nearly 2 hours out of your day when you also factor in travel to and from the office, and you’ll have to do this twice!

Now that the booking links are working – I’ve changed my Day 7 test to a different clinic, in the hope the waiting time is less!

Also, the system allows you to book an appointment for the swab test right up to 14:55, but if they then make you wait for an hour before you actually take it, the test timing will fall well outside the ICA requirement to have completed the test by 3pm on each of the two test dates.

I would therefore strongly recommend booking a morning slot.

This further limits your appointment options because almost all the Raffles Medical clinics close for lunch (no appointments between 11am and 2pm), and I would not feel comfortable booking even a 2pm slot, based on my first experience.

Update: My result came through about 12 hours after my test timing.

As with the on-arrival test, it also appears in the HealthHub app.


 

 

Leaving Singapore earlier?

VTL travellers are not compelled to stay in Singapore for a week (indeed we met one German family on our flight who are heading to Phuket on Sunday, after four nights here).

If you are leaving Singapore within a week of arriving on the VTL, you probably won’t have to undergo both of the post-arrival PCR tests.

If your time of departure from Singapore is:

  • before 3pm on the day of test, you will be exempted from taking your scheduled PCR test. Any unutilised charge(s), excluding administrative fees, will be refunded by the designated chain of clinics to the credit card used to pay for the tests.
  • on or after 3pm on the day of test, you are still required to take their scheduled PCR test on that day. You do not need to wait for the test results to be released before departing Singapore.

That family we met going to Phuket will therefore have to complete their Day 3 test (Friday) but will obviously be long gone by Tuesday next week (Day 7), and so are exempt from that.

Singapore Citizens and Permanent residents do not pre-pay for their Day 3 and Day 7 PCR tests (they pay when taking the tests), but for VTP holders (e.g. short-term visitors and long-term pass holders) the two tests are prepaid as part of the VTP application.

Summary

So far I’ve spent about 30 minutes on the phone with the Safe Travel Office due to the Raffles Medical booking links for the post-arrival test originally not working, about 30 minutes then booking my tests by phone with Raffles Medical themselves, and 1 hour getting the first post-arrival swab!

That’s not the smoothest process so far, but hopefully with the booking link fixed a lot of that inconvenience won’t affect subsequent VTL arrivals.

I’ve still got one swab to do, but obviously I’ve booked a different clinic in the hope that the waiting time won’t be so ridiculous for such a short test.

While the Raffles Medical team did a great job on arrival day at Changi Airport, so far everything after that has left something to be desired!

It’s a shame a system couldn’t be devised for the post-arrival tests to be taken at any approved clinic in Singapore (more than 600 are on the list). It’s hard to see how one provider alone will cope with the volumes if the VTL is expanded to other countries in the months ahead, when it can’t even cope with the first 100 of us.

3 comments

  1. Singapore is rapidly becoming a laughing stock of the developed world. Germans travelling freely around the world whilst Singaporeans cower in their basements convinced that the sky is about to fall in.

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